Brief Communication | Published:

Microbial evolution (Communication arising)

Antitoxin vaccines and pathogen virulence

Naturevolume 417page610 (2002) | Download Citation



Soubeyrand and Plotkin question our contention that antitoxin vaccines may select for greater pathogen virulence, arguing that this has not been borne out in real-life cases of diphtheria and pertussis, in which the widespread use of antitoxin vaccines has led to a reduced incidence of severe disease. They explain this success in terms of direct effects by the toxin on transmission that are both beneficial and costly. They argue that antitoxin vaccines have relieved the pathogen of the cost of high virulence due to host mortality (as we do too), but that these vaccines also maintain the metabolic cost of producing the toxin, helping natural selection to weed out the toxin producers.

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brief communications is intended to provide a forum for both brief, topical reports of general scientific interest and technical discussion of recently published material of particular interest to non-specialist readers. Priority will be given to contributions that have fewer than 500 words, 10 references and only one figure. Detailed guidelines are available on Nature's website ( or on request from


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  1. Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3JT, UK

    • Sylvain Gandon
    • , Margaret J. Mackinnon
    • , Sean Nee
    •  & Andrew F. Read


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Correspondence to Sylvain Gandon.

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